Growing up, I lived in the basement of my Italian grandmother’s house in Queens, New York. Gram was the youngest of thirteen siblings. Half of them had been born in Italy, most of them got along, and all of them settled in New York. She did the cooking for our little family and a steady stream of visiting relatives. The family came from Ancona, a seaport on the calf of the boot, and the dishes they knew were typical of that region, earthy and healthy: heavy on olive oil, fish, a little pork and lamb, and lots of greens. This dish is one that Gram made frequently. It’s like going home again in food, a hug in stew form. There are little pieces of bacon in it that make it perfect.
¼ lb of bacon
3 tablespoons of tomato paste (about half a small jar)
2 quarts of chicken stock
1 pound box of fettucine
3 tablespoons of olive oil
About 3 1/2 pounds of cooked garbanzo beans, drained
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large frying pan, cook the bacon and cut it into pieces about ½” long.
Wipe or wash out the frying pan and add the olive oil. Warm it gently and add the garlic. Cook until just barely golden. Then add the bacon pieces and the tomato paste. Add about a cup of the chicken stock and swish around to pick up any browned pieces in the bottom of the pan.
Dump the contents of the frying pan into a large stock pot. Add the garbanzo beans and about six cups of the chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Taste the liquid in the pot and add salt and pepper as needed. The amount of salt can vary a lot depending on how salty the bacon is. This dish is good with a lot of pepper.
Add the pasta to the pot – I break it in half first – and cook until done. I like it soft for this dish. Add more stock as needed to keep liquid in the mixture. The final texture of the liquid should be almost creamy. Serve very hot with a lot of grated pecorino romano cheese.
The pasta tends to absorb the liquid when it’s stored, so we usually add more stock before putting it in the fridge, or when heating it up.